Fresh Fresh Fresh

What You Didn’t See

Posted by Michael Dolan on October 6, 2014 in Uncategorized |


Robert Darnton offers a useful reminder that not all societies are as dedicated to free speech as the US. In fact, some intellectuals have seen censorship as a valuable way to form and maintain civil society.


Darton’s new book Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature (published by W. W. Norton) examines censorship in three societies. Revolutionary France, imperial India, and East Germany.


His detailed examples give use second thought on the value of censorship. Some censors have acted more like editors, enhancing the author’s work. Some not.


His blog is worth a read:

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Humanitarian bombing

Posted by Michael Dolan on September 21, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Most people trace the origin of “humanitarian bombing” to the war in Kosovo in 1999.  It was well articulated by Václav Havel: “I believe that during intervention of NATO in Kosovo there is an element nobody can question: the air attacks, the bombs, are not caused by a material interest. Their character is exclusively humanitarian: What is at stake here are the principles, human rights which are accorded priority that surpasses even state sovereignty. This makes attacking the Yugoslav Federation legitimate, even without the United Nations mandate.”

Get that?  No questioning. Once we label indiscriminate explosions over a large area of enemy territory “humanitarian,” it’s time for peaceniks to move on.

Humanitarian bombing is how President Obama ushered us back into Iraq.  It was the cover for saving an ethnic group no one ever heard of before.

To widen the war, Obama now builds on the foundation of humanitarian maiming by using the pretense that will we “degrade and destroy” the enemy.  (It does not matter who the enemy is.  What matters is our conduct.)

Once again, he tells us this will be so controlled and surgical.  Nothing will go wrong.  We won’t be bombing wedding parties in Yemen and Afghanistan.

Such clean descriptions of humanities’ most brutal act have a long history.  In the 1950s, we invented “Victory through Air Power,” an antiseptic way to control our enemy without getting dirty.  Vietnam, where we dropped a greater tonnage bombs than we did in WWII, destroyed that lie.  But by the first Iraq war, enough time had passed so we forgot.  The concept was called “precision bombing” with “smart bombs.”  Again, as recent events show, a complete failure.

Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has once more shown us his most effective political skill: a great speech.


Further views

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The More Powerful Email Message

Posted by Michael Dolan on September 9, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Use this simple trick to examine your emails to see what your status is: count the number of “I” word you use and your correspondent uses.  Whoever uses the word more has a lower status, according to James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin.

We tend to be more self conscious when talking to a person of higher status so we emphasize the “I” more.

See more and find the software to help you count words here:

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Talk the Walk

Posted by Michael Dolan on August 8, 2014 in Uncategorized |

             Even showing by example isn’t enough if you don’t articulate what you doing.  So says Bill Taylor in the latest edition of Harvard Business Review online.  He is the cofounder of Fast Company magazine.

            “The only sustainable form of business leadership is thought leadership.  And leaders that think differently about their business invariably talk about it differently as well,” he says.  Successful business leaders must “be able to explain, in language that is unique to their field and compelling to their colleagues and customers, why what they do matters and how they expect to win.”


See the whole article:



Don’t Expect “Think Data” to Disappear Anytime Soon

Posted by Michael Dolan on July 12, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Business jargon — no matter how ridiculed — always seems to survive.  Here’s some new buzzwords:

Think Data (more than the facts)

Digital Mesh (online service expanding to more

Surge Pricing (you can guess).

“The sad truth is that when most people hear someone using abstract language, they’re more likely to respect that person.”  This from Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.


People remain impressed with big abstract words.  Here’s a report from Inc.  Magazine:


For a list of business jargon to avoid (or use obsessively), look here:

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The Only Way to Ensure Tolerance is to Crush Unapproved Ideas

Posted by Michael Dolan on April 25, 2014 in Uncategorized |

College students, of course, are the most dangerous.  They are learning and exploring and oh so disrespectful of the social standards we have locked into place.

The latest transgression comes from Lewis Clark College.  A white student and an African American student, close friends were playing  an unidentified game.  According to reports, when the black one scored, he yelled “Team Nigga.”  When the white one scored, he yelled, “White power.”

They are suspected of laughing.  Somebody in the next room turned them in.

Campus living director Kelly Hoover and Associate Dean of Student Engagement Tricia Brand stated officially, “Your use of racially charged language, intentional or not, was reckless and created an environment where others in the space felt it was necessary to correct your behavior. More broadly, your actions caused reasonable apprehension of harm to the community.”  The students were reprimanded and put on probation.

Now that the student paper has shined a light on the incident, administrators have clammed up.

The students were disciplined for making fun of a rigid authoritarian mindset that is the basis of the disciplinary process.

Pure Orwellian.

Here’s the account from The Oregonian newspaper:

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Probably Funnier Than You

Posted by Michael Dolan on April 25, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Turns out I live in the 5th funniest city in the US, funnier than New York or Los Angeles.

That’s the news from University of Colorado Boulder.  Boston is the funniest, they report.  My Portland is #5.

“We found humor often has a local flavor,” said Peter McGraw, associate professor of marketing and psychology at the business school. “The jokes that get laughs at comedy clubs in Denver seem unlikely to fly with a cartoon editor at The New Yorker, for example. The kind of torturous game shows that some Japanese find amusing would likely fall flat to a sitcom producer in Los Angeles.”

More from McGraw: “Boston residents balance high-brow intellectualism with drunken rowdiness while Washington, D.C., finds humor in the absurdities of political systems. Portlanders are just plain weird.”

Hey!  Wait a minute.  We’re not weird.  We’re advanced.


See more at:

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Bottom Line Pro-active Team Player Thinks Outside the Box of Employment

Posted by Michael Dolan on March 26, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Hiring managers, in the brief opportunity they afford job seekers, say they are turned off by certain words on the resume.  After a survey of HR professionals, Careerbuilder determined the worse resume cliché is “best of the breed.”  Sounds bad to me.

Other turn offs include Hard worker, Strategic thinker, Dynamic, Self-motivated, Detail-oriented.  Instead, the career consultant company suggests thinking of your own fresh words to describe yourself.  It’s George Orwell Rule #1: Never use a combination of words you are used to seeing in print.

Learn more:


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Language in Conflict

Posted by Michael Dolan on March 24, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Here’s an illuminating essay that shows the Arab-Israeli conflict is now so encrusted with legend and bias, it’s almost impossible to discuss it effectively.

Jodi Rudoren, a New Times reporter, zeros in on whether an action is “retaliation” or “response.”

“This is part of what I have come to call “conflict code”: words whose plain English meanings are politicized, distorted or undermined in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, which is much more a clash of narratives than a tussle over territory.”

She continues: “It’s not just about journalism. As Secretary of State John Kerry tries to push forward a framework for a peace agreement this month, the precise language of the document may determine whether talks continue or break down.”

See the whole essay:

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Where the Words Come from

Posted by Michael Dolan on March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Latin and French send more words to the English language than any other sources.  Maybe no big surprise.  But Swedish is big too.  And Japanese is on the rise.

This from Philip Durkin, Deputy Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, and author of Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English.

More importantly, he has a fun interactive chart.  You can see the influences over the centuries. See it here:


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